Thursday, February 28, 2008

How to deal with an exam that does not suit your learning style?

If your child has strong analytic preferences, how do you help her prepare for essay-type questions? Analytic children like facts and find it difficult to answer open-ended questions, particularly those that seek opinions and generalisations. Here are a few tips to help them cope:
· Read each question and identify which part or parts of the syllabus it can possibly refer to. For example, if they encounter a question like: “Do you think that a virus has good survival skills?”, teach them to ignore the potentially nonsensical notion of a virus having skills. Instead, ask them to concentrate on what the teacher actually wanted to know: something about rapid mutation, perhaps, or a hardy shell protecting the virus interior?
· When writing an essay-type answer, take a scrap sheet and jot down as many facts as you can remember. Now write a sentence for every one of those facts - that is your essay.
· If the question asks for your opinion, for example, was Hamlet really insane or was he just acting, again write down all the facts “for” and “against” the theory that he was insane. Can you make a decision? If you can, write your essay with that decision in mind. If you cannot, present a balanced argument and then end with something non-committal, like: “The jury is still out on that one”.

If your child has strong holistic preferences, she will not enjoy concentrating on details. Holistic children don’t like exam questions that ask to list facts, tabulate differences or fill in missing words. Some tips to help them cope:
· Learn the material by focussing on the big picture first, that way the facts will slot in more easily.
· Practice for the exam by identifying the facts and highlighting the important words (dates, names). Then cut out bits of cardboard to cover up the important words (you can stick them on with Prestik) and try to fill in the blanks.
· Remember that the purpose of the exam is to help you gain the knowledge you need.

To analyse your child’s learning style, have a look at this free online demo.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Learning Styles and Tests

If you are familiar with the concept of learning styles, you will realise that your child’s learning style will have an impact on the type of classroom test that your child prefers.

· Analytic children generally prefer questions that require factual detailed answers, typically in the form of “True/False” or Fill-the-missing-word or List 5 differences between a snail and a frog.
· Holistic children may do better in essay-type tests and more open-ended questions.
· Impulsive children will like multiple-choice type tests.
· Visual children will enjoy tests with lots of pictures: label this diagram, draw a cross-section of a plant cell, etc.

Of course, your child’s very attitude to tests will also depend on her unique learning style. If she is a holistic learner, she will need to understand the purpose of the test. Tell her tests are important to monitor learning progress and to show how well the teacher is doing his job.

Holistic children may also get more stressed in test situations. Try to remove as much of the stress as possible: ask the teacher to let them take the test in their preferred environment (based on their LSA results). Give your child a test at home every day for a month and then the test it won’t feel “special”, so the stress factor will be reduced. Removing the time factor (i.e., not letting them feel that there is a strict deadline for finishing the test) may make them perform better as well.

What motivates your child: external recognition (i.e., doing well in the test) or the internal knowledge that she understands and knows the material?

To analyse your child’s learning style, have a look at this free online demo.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Beware of unverified personality tests on the Internet

Personality tests are fun. Who can resist discovering your perfect career match, or what your colour preference says about your temperament, or why your current Mr Right is really right for you?

Open (almost) any magazine or run an Internet search, and there you have them:
· Are you a workaholic?
· How do you handle stress?
· Are you a good boss?
· The bear and your attitude to everyday problems.
· What the contents of your fridge says about you...

The tests range from learning styles and handwriting to analysing the shape of your lipstick. They are fun. But are they accurate and should you follow their advice when it comes to choosing the right job or the right life partner?

Over the last week, I’ve taken thirteen free online personality tests, each time giving honest answers. This is what I discovered:
· I am a gregarious person who loves people.
· I’m a loner.
· I’m emotional.
· I think analytically.
· I am practical.
· I’m a dreamer.
· I am a happy settled person who knows what she wants.
· I should be a novelist, a graphic designer, a historian and a university professor.
· My Mr Right is a faceless somebody on Facebook. If I’m to believe his online profile, he lives on another continent, and is married with children.

Most of it was as amusing as it was entertaining. But the pedantic side of me flared up when I specifically said in one online quiz that I prefer working in a group and that I like to be in the centre of the action, and yet the results said: "You like to avoid attention at all costs. You tend to keep to yourself, and not interact much with the people around you."

That quiz was supposed to help me choose the career most suited to my personality, and yet it contained a glaring error. I sincerely hope that nobody makes a wrong choice based on advice received from that specific test.

(For a list of questions to consider before you choose a learning style analysis or a career guidance test, please click here.)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Learning Styles and Information Processing

"Impatience in search and navigation, and zero tolerance for any delay in satisfying their information needs" - does that sound like anybody you know?

University College London recently conducted a study into how people process information. The study focussed on those born after the arrival of the Internet, and it concluded that “the Google generation”, although skilled at finding information on the Internet, doesn’t know how to process the results.

On the plus side, they seem to be able to handle more inputs of information at once than the older generation. They can type an email while watching a movie and conducting three online chats. But is that true multitasking, or has the Google generation learnt how to tune out?

Your learning style is the way
in which you understand and remember new concepts.

If your learning style is that of a simultaneous multi-processor of information, you will have no trouble multitasking in our highly multitask-oriented society. If you think sequentially, however, today’s multitasking work environment will most likely make you stressed and ultimately burnt out.

Whether the Internet will make you more productive, or whether you will lose your focus and simply surf for hours without a goal, also depends on your learning style.

(To analyse your learning style, have a look at this free online demo.)

One thing is certain, however: today’s regular availability of information will have an impact on the amount of information people get exposed to and ultimately retain. And at least using the Internet is less passive than watching TV.